Study says tribals prefer modern over religious parties

Posted in Broader Middle East , Pakistan | 20-Mar-08 | Author: Sher Baz Khan| Source: (Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD, March 19: Contrary to the general perception, a vast majority of the tribal people have no expectations from the religious parties and want a political change to resolve their socio-economic problems, according to a study released here on Wednesday.

Nor the tribals accept the Jihad as defined by the religious parties and believe that illiteracy and unemployment were driving their youth to religious extremism, says the study conducted by the Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP), a civil society organisation.

These findings were presented by Naveed Ahmad, author of the research report, at a ceremony attended by Deputy British High Commissioner Ray Kyle; former secretary Fata, Brig (retired) Mahmood Shah; analyst Naseem Zehra and a teacher of Peshawar University Dr Ijaz Khan.

Fifty-seven per cent of the tribal people believe learning modern sciences and Quran was the preferred Jihad, the research found. Less than 25 per cent of them understood Jihad as peaceful resistance to oppression and 17 per cent subscribed to the armed resistance concept of Jihad.

Surprisingly, about 85 per cent of the tribals supported women education. Tribal women wished the government provided their community educational and healthcare facilities and access to clean drinking water.

Another surprise was that over 67 per cent of the tribal people considered the custom of Swara a criminal act against the 25 per cent who thought the custom resolved family feuds. Only one in 100 approved of “the tribal custom”.

However, the majority of them justified honour killing.

About 60 per cent of the respondents believed that even if religious parties were given political power in Fata, they would not have solved their problems. That showed the confidence that the religious parties had enjoyed during US-led Cold War against the Soviet Union has been eroding.

Over 90 per cent of the tribal people considered President Musharraf’s crack down on religious institutions unjustified.

They listed illiteracy as the main cause of the tribal youth falling prey to religious extremists, followed by the disastrous repercussions of the Afghan Jihad, poverty, bad governance and unemployment.

A majority of the respondents even did not know what the term ‘Talibanisation’ meant. Twenty per cent know Taliban as students of religious seminaries, 16 per cent think they are trying to introduce Shariah, while about nine per cent think that they are Jihadis.

The study sees a bleak future for the tribal youths as a majority of them spend their time in unproductive activity in the tribal culture. According to the survey results, these unemployed young people indulge in drug abuse, domestic violence and other crimes.

Majority 68 per cent have confidence in the Woolasi Jirga, an old form of tribal assembly with power lying with the masses. 75 per cent said Sarkari Jirga backed by the government under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) favoured the rich and the privileged of the political administration.

The report has demanded the government to initiate political reforms in Fata which would ensure socio-economic development of the tribal people.

During the transition period, the tribal people should be at least extended the rights to association and expression. The study recommends that members of the Agency Council should be elected on the basis of adult franchise.

It says more primary, high and middle schools should be established for girls, with at least one women college for each agency.